Where to?

Many people see the process of “enlightenment” as involving degrees of peace and contentment. That the process can be inherently violent–a ripping away of illusions and even relationships based on those illusions–is probably one of the features that turn people away from considering such spiritual questions.

It is relatively easy to look back on, say, Abram, and approve of his willingness to follow God’s command, “The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1) so that he could become Abraham, the “father of the people.” It is much more difficult to imagine what it was like at the time for him and his family to abandon everything they had known for all their lives. Similarly, Siddartha left the luxuries of the palace and his family, determined to find understanding and, in so doing, became the “Awakened One, the Buddha.” That his path had consequences for his innocent family has moral implications few Buddhists like to evaluate.

I imagine we all have had times in our lives when we have been “called” to make radical changes–with consequences not only for ourselves, but for those around us for whom we care deeply. How we have responded ultimately will determine the degree we can look back on our lives without regrets.

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  1. It’s a very compelling and convincing argument that you are doing here, Arthur. All or many of the kindled spirits have gone through seemingly insurmountable challenges of life. Only to come out of it wise and awakened. And that’s very motivating to stay put and not give up in difficult times.

    The question is, how do we prepare ourselves for such occasions? Are some people inherently more resilient than others? What about the others not-so-fortunate?

    What’s the hope for lesser evolved folks who need more hand-holding and guidance? My fear is lacking that support, most of the humanity lives in that darkness all along and is extinguished without any hope of salvation or enlightenment. We need some robust system to educate and train ourselves and future generations to come.

    At least for me, these things can not be left to DI. It has to be more DIY.

    1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. Your DI vs DIY is clever and points to your sense of compassion…and maybe also some frustration with those who talk about “pie in the sky” while ignoring the plight of those around them. Zen Buddhists would say you might be a Bodhissatva–someone who could achieve nirvana, but refuses to do so until everyone else can do so as well.

      In any event, “how do we prepare ourselves for such occasions?” is a very important question and one that cannot be answered in any depth here. For now, I will say that a first step would be to decide what the value of ‘enlightenment” might be. If, for example, we simply die at the end of our lifetimes and all our memories disappear, to what extent does it matter whether any of us achieve salvation? Enlightened or saved, these blips of time are so brief from the perspective of the universe that the difference seems negligible at best. However, if we do not simply disappear at death–that there is some ultimate value to those future generations–that approach can change our entire attitude to everything and everyone and start to make us more resilient. There are many–I have written elsewhere about Viktor Frankl, for example–who talk about how essential it is for people to have a sense of meaning in their lives. If so, imagine how beneficial it could be to our sense of well being and psychic energy if we believed our efforts to handhold and guide really made a significant in this vast universe. Imagine, too, that DI depends on each one of us to DIY for it is only through our efforts that it can happen.

      Like I said, this is not a topic that can be discussed fully here, but it is…well, a start. If you would like to proceed further, just let me know. In the meantime, thanks again!

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